Royals attend Christmas Day church service

Brian Farmer,Pa
Saturday 25 December 2010 15:30 GMT

More than 1,000 people gathered today to watch members of the Royal Family attend a Christmas Day church service at Sandringham.

Police mounted a large security operation as 10 royals, including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived for the annual service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the royal estate in Norfolk.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Duke of York and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex joined the Queen and Duke at the service, led by Sandringham rector Jonathan Riviere.

Most of the party - including the Duke of Edinburgh - walked the quarter mile from Sandringham House to the church despite freezing temperatures. The Queen arrived by car with the Countess of Wessex.

Seasoned royal watchers could not remember so few royals attending the Christmas Day service.

Last year the royal party also included Prince William, the Princess Royal and her husband Timothy Laurence, plus the Princess Royal's children - Peter Phillips with his wife Autumn, and Zara Phillips.

Royal officials said William, who is serving in the forces, was working at RAF Valley on Anglesey and Miss Phillips was spending Christmas with her fiancee, England rugby union international Mike Tindall. Autumn Phillips is expecting a baby in the near future.

A royal spokesman said he was unable to explain the absence of the Princess Royal and her husband.

Police searched members of the public arriving for the service. Officers were also seen speaking to a youth standing in the crowd carrying a long-lens camera.

The Queen accepted flowers from children after the 40-minute service and members of the royal party chatted to onlookers as they made their way back to Sandringham House.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie caught the eye in high-heeled boots and distinctive headgear as the royals attended church.

Beatrice opted for five-inch stilettos and a fascinator, Eugenie for slightly smaller platform heels and a trilby-style hat.

The Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall dressed for the weather in full-length coats, scarves and Russian-style fur hats.

The Countess of Wessex opted for black court shoes and a purple pill box hat.

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